Hint: the answer is not only on TikTok
GenZ, otherwise known as the internet generation, are people born between 1996 and 2012 with an iPhone in their hands and don’t remember a time without ever having an account on Instagram or TikTok. The oldest of which were born 13 years after the creation of the internet, 8 years old when Facebook was launched, and most of whom used had computer skills taught in school.
Due to what some may call a close connection to their social media account, GenZ has forced companies and others to change with the relationships this generation has developed with apps like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat.
In essence, since their upbringing was so intertwined with their identity, GenZ is forcing authenticity into mainstream social media activity. Many people used to think that filters and hashtags were the best ways to engage with these platforms, but GenZ has taught us that the new generation of social media users see the over usage of filters as fake and that the bombardment of hashtags are accounts seeking clicks and views – which often backfires and shows inauthentic attention-seeking.
Research has shown the largest difference between GenZ and other age groups is the centrality of technology to people’s upbringing. This native understanding of technology has made a generation of people who are tech-savvy well beyond their elderly Millennial cohorts, and intuitively understand how social media platforms operate more than most.
And there are some misconceptions about where GenZ spends time with their eyeballs. TikTok has the reputation of being the only place that GenZ audiences are. This is not true – just ask Snapchat, which, in actuality, is the social media platform most used by GenZ in the US (it’s used by more than 10 million people). TikTok is only the second most used platform, followed closely by Instagram.
Due to the current changing landscape of social media caused by GenZ’s affinity for social media, it may be time for you to think about ways your company can showcase your brand authentically while being on TikTok. And we say this knowing that many PR firms or companies have not prioritized changing with the times. While attending an industry summit recently, a colleague of mine asked panelists about their current best practices for communicating with GenZ on social.
Surprisingly, they each replied saying basically, they had no strategy. Not sure how this is possible because this is a massive, missed opportunity for brands and companies alike looking to grow clientele or followership, especially from a generation that accounts for 40% of global consumers.
One great example of unexpected corporate social media success is @WashingtonPost on TikTok, taking real news stories and showing them in a non-traditional way in order to widen their audience. Before creating your organization’s TikTok account, think about who your audience is and what you can bring to the platform.
Brands have a huge opportunity to connect with GenZ by using consistency and authenticity. In a 2021 study, Forbes found that 97% of GenZ users use Instagram as their main social commerce app. The updated in-app shopping features of Instagram and Facebook allow for a seamless shopping experience.
GenZ users have shaped the way these tools have been used, with Instagram Lives being the go-to platform for shorter, more informal content. Politicians and public officials have used these tools to respond to constituents. For example, the ever-popular with GenZ Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has used Instagram Live to reach a younger audience, with information relevant to her job as a Member of the House of Representatives.
As a GenZ PR professional myself, I think often about this interesting dichotomy, using techniques created by older generations to effectively influence GenZ audiences on social media. Some of this looks like using the latest tools on social media platforms, including shopping, Live function on Instagram or polls on Twitter.
Here are some free tips from a GenZ’er on how best to share information with my generation:
- Use 🧵 on Twitter to indicate you are starting a thread and readers should look below.
- Limit the usage of non-company specific hashtags to be more readable to audiences.
- Use GIFs to react.
- Keep it snappy. Brevity is in, long form is out.
- Hop onto trends. Especially on TikTok.
- Have fun. Social media is meant to be fun.
As PR professionals reaching audiences of all ages, having a broad social media campaign strategy that includes GenZ to share insight into your coalition or knowledge about your brand.